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Thousands of parents have watched their young toddler or elementary school child behave in ways that “seem so intelligent” and, based on these casual observations, have concluded that their child is most certainly “gifted.”  Unfortunately, many of these parents do not know how to go about determining the truth of their observation.

Paula Spencer, writing in Parenting Magazine, points out the term “gifted” has become one of the most misunderstood terms in modern education.  “The vast majority of children are not gifted,” she writes, and goes on to say that “Only 2 to 5 percent fit the bill, by various estimates.”

Dr. David Palmer, writing for Psychology Today, suggests that “when it comes to discovering if your own child is gifted, one option is to wait to see whether teachers or others at your child’s school recommend testing for a gifted education program.”  On the flip side, Dr. Palmer also notes that “….some teachers and school administrators may not have all the information they need to recognize gifted children.  For this reason, your insights are important.”  (Palmer, David, PhD.   “Parents’ Guide to IQ Testing and Gifted Education.” Psychology Today.  1 May, 2011.)

When and Where to Start:  Some psychologists say that parents should wait until their child is at least four years old to test them for gifted tendencies.  Children younger than four can be tested, but testing administered to post-kindergarten children is more accurate than is the testing of preschoolers.  Most psychologists say that starting with your child’s teacher is the best way to assess your child’s tendency to “giftedness.”

There are a number of IQ tests that can be administered to school-age children, but the American Psychological Association often recommends the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children as being the test most often used by school districts.  If the parent is not ready to put their young child through the rigors of testing, the Mensa Society (for high-IQ individuals) does offer a “Mensa Workout” test that gives parents a general idea of what kinds of questions an actual IQ test contains.  (NOTE:  It’s important for parents to remember that Internet-based tests are not the same as standardized IQ tests and are almost never used in the case of professional assessments of giftedness.)  For an overall idea of your child’s level, The Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented offers a form entitled “Checklist: Is your child gifted?”  (GOTO

The National Standard for “giftedness:” The Javits Act was a federal law in the U.S. passed in 1988 and subsequently defunded in 2011.  The definition in the Act has been adopted by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and says that a gifted child is any child showing “evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need(s) services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”

There are dozens of giftedness testing tools available online, through public schools, and from psychologists trained in the field.  Considering all of this, the best thing for a parent to remember when dealing with a child they believe may be gifted, is to trust their own instincts and insights, as well as those of their child’s teachers, as the most important piece of the puzzle that makes up a talented child.

SEVEN EXCELLENT RESOURCES:   (100 free practice questions for the Gifted & Talented Test) 


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